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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday August 23 2017, @09:41AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-bit-tart dept.

Scientists have added cadmium to bacteria, causing them to accumulate cadmium sulphide crystals on their surfaces:

Scientists have created bacteria covered in tiny semiconductors that generate a potential fuel source from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. The so-called "cyborg" bugs produce acetic acid, a chemical that can then be turned into fuel and plastic. In lab experiments, the bacteria proved much more efficient at harvesting sunlight than plants. The work was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington.

[...] These newly boosted bacteria produce acetic acid, essentially vinegar, from CO2, water and light. They have an efficiency of around 80%, which is four times the level of commercial solar panels, and more than six times the level of chlorophyll.

Also at IEEE.


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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by c0lo on Wednesday August 23 2017, @12:08PM (8 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 23 2017, @12:08PM (#557931) Journal

    TFA:

    These newly boosted bacteria produce acetic acid, essentially vinegar, from CO2, water and light...

    "We have collaborators who have a number of strands of E. coli that are genetically engineered to take acetic acid as their food source and they can upgrade it into butanol and a polymer called polyhydroxybutyrate."

    Biobutanol [wikipedia.org]

    Butanol at 85 percent strength can be used in cars designed for gasoline (petrol) without any change to the engine (unlike 85% ethanol), and it contains more energy for a given volume than ethanol and almost as much as gasoline, and a vehicle using butanol would return fuel consumption more comparable to gasoline than ethanol. Butanol can also be added to diesel fuel to reduce soot emissions.

    Species of Geobacter [wikipedia.org] produce electricity consuming acetate [asm.org].
    For a nice project to do with kids or grandkids - microbial fuel cell - Elbonian style [youtube.com].
    Search for "microbial fuel cell" if further interested.

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @01:32PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @01:32PM (#557985)

    Interesting stuff. Personally I think chemical energy to be released as combustion is the best way we know how to store energy in a convenient, easy to transport form.

    I don't see anything wrong with burning hydrocarbons. They're great molecules. There's nothing inherently un-green about combustion with the BIG IF, if the carbon cycle is closed!

    I see lots and lots wrong with continuing to pump a limited resource out of the ground and releasing carbon that hasn't been in the atmosphere since 60 mya. I feel there's more superstition and religion at work with this idea that we're going to power cars and big trucks with rechargeable batteries. Hydrocarbons are already great batteries, and we understand very well how to extract energy from them to do work.

    What we don't understand very well is how to store energy as hydrocarbons. I see all this research going into the creation some wunderbattery, and so little research and nearly no serious industrial attempts at storing energy in hydrocarbons. Corn ethanol is a fucking bad joke, almost as though it was pushed to tar the entire idea of creating plants/factories to, say, harvest sunlight with solar panels, wind power (wind is still powered by the sun), and store energy in hydrocarbons that we can ship everywhere with existing infrastructure.

    For homes, solar is a no-brainer. Even somewhere I live where we don't see the sun for 8 months out of the year, solar panels still harvest some energy, just not as much as in ideal conditions. Wind power, solar power plants (especially if there's a better and less corrosive material than molten salt), geothermal, etc all make great sense where these can be built. However, for transportation, and far be it for me to have range anxiety on my 10 mile commute to the other side of town, but I simply don't see parity with chemical energy.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @01:42PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @01:42PM (#557997)

      say, harvest sunlight with solar panels, wind power (wind is still powered by the sun), and store energy in hydrocarbons

      Completely forgot to mention nuclear here. This is a great use-case for nuclear power. Harness fission energy, maybe some day fusion energy, assuming fusion is even possible on a scale many, many orders of magnitude less than a star, and store it in hydrocarbons. We won't have a Mr. Fusion on the back of our cars we can throw anything we can dig out of a trash can into, we won't have General Atomics fission power plants in our cars either, instead we could have nuclear powered cars (of the future! today!) because the cars run on hydrocarbons assembled in a fission or fusion power plant.

      Of course, don't let corporations anywhere near the management of nuclear plants. I'm convinced that fission can be done safely, just as long as gaslighting asshole managers are kept at a safe distance (perhaps measured in hundreds of miles and safely contained in jail cells until such a time we find a cure for sociopathy).

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday August 23 2017, @02:25PM

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday August 23 2017, @02:25PM (#558015) Journal

        Doubling the energy density of batteries is not impossible (cue always 5 years away joke). At some point range anxiety disappears.

        Electric cars can get their electricity from any source including solar. They have better acceleration and make less noise (enabling them to mow down blind people). They can be safer due to distributing the weight of batteries at the bottom of the car.

        Cost is the real killer. Tesla is massively overvalued given the price tags on its cars. Chevy Bolt [electrek.co] is too expensive and the battery pack [electrek.co] costs more than some cars. Plug-in hybrids could be a good option for lowering the cost and boosting the range. But that's only for people buying new. If your existing car can run for decades with maintenance, then a drop-in replacement for gasoline is useful to you.

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        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @03:30PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @03:30PM (#558036)

    Not more of that biofuel idiocy.

    Biofuels suck in both performance and cost. Proven time and again, no citation needed.

    The answer is vehicles that don't burn anything.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @04:33PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @04:33PM (#558064)

      Storage batteries have a lower energy density than many fuels, and take a long time to charge. Proven time and again, no citation needed.

      Fuel cells don't burn anything.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @09:57PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23 2017, @09:57PM (#558196)

        Right. They create energy from nothing. Pure fucking magic!

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24 2017, @04:22AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 24 2017, @04:22AM (#558310)

          Wrong. They transform chemical energy directly to electrical energy.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday August 24 2017, @01:13PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday August 24 2017, @01:13PM (#558427) Journal

      The answer is vehicles that don't burn anything.

      It's still chemical energy and the reaction to generate electricity is the same as burning in an engine. What annoys me about this argument is that it ignores the considerable weight and operational inefficiencies of current electric vehicles. I think we could instead develop a hybrid vehicle running on biofuels that has the strengths of both gas-powered and electric vehicles, using the best technology of each. I think the key problem is designing an engine that can burn fuel at a much hotter temperature than in normal internal combustion engines. Do that, and the rest is already there, including biofuels.